Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 2

In his second blog post, Simon discusses the work the company has done on the Globe stage, how he learns his lines and his thoughts on Philostrate.

Transcript of Podcast

Rehearsing on the Stage

At the moment, we’re going through the whole play bit by bit, working on each scene both with and without the script. We’ve also had a little bit of time to try some scenes and speeches on the stage. This is really helpful, as those members of the company who aren’t on stage at any point sit in different places all around the theatre, so wherever you look, there’s always someone to speak the lines to. Still, it’s not like playing to an audience, as we all know each other quite well now, and, chances are, whoever you are speaking to has already seen you do that speech/scene in rehearsal. Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] moves around the theatre a lot, watching what we’re doing from lots of different angles. To have him there is really helpful; he knows how the space works, and is always pointing out places on the stage, such as the corners, which are really strong places to perform in. I’m now quite confident and comfortable on that stage because wherever you stand, you have your back to somebody. Usually, an actor should never have their back to the audience, but in the Globe, the inevitability of this happening is quite liberating. What it does mean, however, is that you need to keep moving and be aware of exactly where you are in relation to both the audience and the other actors on the stage.

I have been coming in early every morning, about 8.30, and practising my voice and movement work on the stage whilst there’s no one else in the theatre. I practice speeches in different places on the stage, trying them out, and the other day I found a way to climb up the pillars. There’s a ledge around their base that is quite thin, but if you get it right, you can jump up onto it. I’ve found out that I can climb up to the very top of the pillars, although I won’t be allowed to do that in performance; if you’re going any higher than the ledge you need to wear a safety harness, and that would get in the way of what I’m doing for the rest of those scenes.

Learning lines

People often ask me, ‘how do you learn all your lines?’ It’s funny, but they just seem to go in during the rehearsal process. It’s all word association: one word will suddenly trigger a whole paragraph. In many ways, the lines are the least of an actor’s worries. It’s how you say them that’s the crucial thing. Occasionally, there are times when you’re just not in the mood to rehearse and you think that everything you do is rubbish, but the way to deal with this is to keep working through it, trying the lines in many different ways.

"Points of Concentration"

One of the exercises we’ve been doing is what Mike [Alfreds] calls “Points of Concentration.” A point of concentration is simply something for your character to bear in mind for the whole scene, or sometimes the whole play. For example, in the lovers scene, (act iii, scene 2), the mortals’ point of concentration might be that it’s night-time, and therefore very dark, whereas the fairies’ could be to remember that night-time is when they’re busy. These ideas then inform the way we do that whole scene. You can also use this exercise for the whole play; for example, Puck’s point of concentration could be a need to impress Oberon. When I worked with Mike [Alfreds] before, he would sometimes show up in the dressing room before each performance and give us a different point of concentration just for that show. It’s a good way of keeping each performance fresh.

Philostrate

I haven’t really had much time to consider the character of Philostrate yet, because I’ve been so involved with Puck. In many ways, the two of them are very similar; they are Theseus’/Oberon’s right hand men. I originally thought Philostrate might be a Jeeves-type character, very diffident, with a strong English accent. Unfortunately, Mike [Alfreds] ’s reaction to that idea was a simple “no”. So now, he’s more of a comedian, which is closer to Puck, but thankfully not too close. For example, if Philostrate had a day off, he’d use it to work on his jokes and his self-presentation. Puck would just spend the day messing about!

These comments are the actor’s thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.

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